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Veteran ‘shocked’ after receiving medical records of other military members

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Veteran ‘shocked’ after receiving medical records of other military members
Alison Auld
Halifax— The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010 6:34PM EST
Last updated Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010 6:38PM EST



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The Department of Defence has launched an investigation after a former member of the Canadian Forces found sensitive health and personal information about other military personnel in his medical file.

Wayne Finn said he was stunned to discover everything from other service members' social insurance numbers, blood test results, X-ray reports to dates of birth mixed in with his military medical file.

The 49-year-old Nova Scotia man said he still has information referring to about 20 people in his file, even after returning the files of eight others to the base in Halifax where he was serving.

“What shocked me as I was going through it was finding all these different people on my file — I didn't want to read them because I thought it was being nosy and it's none of my business what's wrong with them,” he told The Canadian Press last week.

“It's just ridiculous that all this information is misfiled, that I have all these guys' information — I shouldn't have it.”

The accusation comes a month after Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn issued an apology to Sean Bruyea, a former intelligence officer whose medical information was shared widely in the department.

Mr. Finn, who served as a bosun on a variety of supply ships, asked the privacy commissioner a year ago to look into the apparent security breach, but said he has received no indication from the commissioner's office that they are pursuing the complaint.

Peter Stoffer, the NDP's veterans affairs critic, has asked the commissioner to review Mr. Finn's privacy concerns after the 30-year veteran outlined his case to him a couple of months ago.

“The fact that medical information from other people was sent to an individual, that's quite a serious breach,” Mr. Stoffer said.

A spokeswoman for commissioner Jennifer Stoddart's office said she couldn't comment on a specific case. A letter from Ms. Stoddart to Mr. Stoffer dated Nov. 10 indicates that an investigator is looking into the matter.

Deputy Surgeon General Col. Jean-Robert Bernier said in an email that “an administrative investigation is underway to determine if a privacy breach occurred.” The investigation is being led by the military's chief privacy officer and the head of health records management.

“The issue ... is being taken very seriously by the leadership in the Canadian Forces Health Services,” Col. Bernier said.

He said Mr. Finn's paper health records will be reviewed to determine if there was a breach under the Privacy Act and the department's Defence Administrative Orders and Directives, which spell out corporate administrative policies for the Forces.

Mr. Finn was medically released from the Forces in 2007 because of chronic health problems, including kidney stones and celiac disease. He had applied to receive his medical file sent to his home in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Finn collected his extensive medical file at Canadian Forces Base Stadacona in Halifax a month before he was released, but did not open it immediately.

When he did, he said he found files belonging to at least eight other people that contained blood test and X-ray results, as well as member names and service numbers.

He returned them to Stadacona, the navy base where Mr. Finn saw a military doctor as part of his medical release. He said his doctor removed several other people's files as well.

A physician at the base who Mr. Finn said treated him and saw the file would not comment on the case due to reasons of confidentiality.

One document Mr. Finn still has in his file contains the service numbers, dates of birth, names, signatures and ranks of 14 people aboard HMCS St. John's during Operation Apollo, Canada's contribution to the fight against terrorism from October 2001 to October 2003.

Another document from his time on HMCS Protecteur during the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War lists tuberculosis test results for six crew members and includes their names, social insurance numbers, ranks and where they lived.

Kevin Edwards, a 50-year-old bosun on HMCS Montreal, was one of the crew named on the document that listed his SIN, service number and TB test result.

“I'm not very impressed with it and where else is it at?” he said in Halifax.

“It's a big concern not only if you're going to go for any benefits and they can't find it, but if it fell into wrong hands.”

Mr. Finn said he decided to come forward after Mr. Bruyea revealed that his medical files were passed around by federal Veterans Affairs officials in an apparent effort to discredit him.

Mr. Bruyea, a leading advocate for better treatment of wounded veterans and their families, launched a $400,000 lawsuit in September against the federal government after he discovered that his files had been accessed by hundreds of bureaucrats. That suit has been settled.

Mr. Finn, who says he's missing medical information in his file, also said he too often hears of former members being denied benefits from Veterans Affairs because their health records are incomplete.

“I know there's a lot of lost information out there and there's a lot of vets in a constant battle with Veterans Affairs,” he said.

“How many people do we hear saying, ‘I had an operation, but it's not in my file' or ‘I can't put a claim in through Veterans Affairs because they keep denying me'?”

© 2010 CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 

Gronk

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  I suspect this kind of thing happens more often than we're led to believe. My brother and I were in the same unit, and our medical files were intermixed. This can have terrible consequences when one applies for a pension or payout.
  Of course, this was the same unit that put a document in everyones file stating that we were exposed to unknown toxic substances while in theatre, and then at a later date, these notes "mysteriously" disappeared.
 

Greymatters

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These kinds of errors happen - I dont see why the 'shocked' member had to go to the papers and broadcast a clerical error as if it was the end of the world.

It might also interest him to know that based on current case law, if a private company does violate privacy (i.e. like the example in the paper) and takes reasonable steps to remedy the problem, you arent entitled to monetary damages.  Even the courts recognize the concept of human error.



 
 

armyvern

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Greymatters said:
These kinds of errors happen - I dont see why the 'shocked' member had to go to the papers and broadcast a clerical error as if it was the end of the world.

It might also interest him to know that based on current case law, if a private company does violate privacy (i.e. like the example in the paper) and takes reasonable steps to remedy the problem, you arent entitled to monetary damages.  Even the courts recognize the concept of human error.

This is beyong the "casual" human error; the gentleman received the confidental medical info of at least EIGHT other personnel in his OWN medical file. Placing ONE medical report of another into the wrong file may be a 'casual' error, but EIGHT!!??

As well, the placement of the eight's medical reports onto the wrong file could (perhaps did??) screw those pers out of rightfully entitled benefits and coverage from VAC. That is far from "a casual situation/error that should not cause alarm bells to go off"; it actually screams "investigation required and big time review of processes needed" given that this released file through ATI should have been physically reviewed by another human before it was shipped in the mail ... someone dropped the ball BIG time.
 

Greymatters

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I agree that the CF should investigate to find why it happened, and guess what you'll find? Human error.  If youre trying to tell me that a person with your experience and background hasnt seen it before, Im pretty shocked. 

This sounds like a very rare incident where multiple files for an unknown reason got put into a single file.  Its tragic, but it happens.  The error obviously lies with whoever sending it out failed to review the contents prior to stuffing it into the envelope.  Correct the error and move on.


 

armyvern

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Greymatters said:
I agree that the CF should investigate to find why it happened, and guess what you'll find? Human error.  If youre trying to tell me that a person with your experience and background hasnt seen it before, Im pretty shocked. 

This sounds like a very rare incident where multiple files for an unknown reason got put into a single file.  Its tragic, but it happens.  The error obviously lies with whoever sending it out failed to review the contents prior to stuffing it into the envelope.  Correct the error and move on.

Yes, it'll find human error ... AND most probably a systemic problem with the procedures for placement of med info ...

given that at least EIGHT human errors occured at least EIGHT seperate occasions (to get those wrong items into the wrong ONE file) and then, at least ONE more (and quite a more signifiant error in official "processing proedures" in my mind) in that this file had to be reviewed at least once in it's entirity by at least one more human before it got sent in the mail <--- and that step, right there, should have been the step that prevented this confidential info from being released to the WRONG individual.

And, this is just ONE guy talking to the media ... you, with your own TI & background experience, should surely realize that it is the "few and far in between" person who actually "goes public". And surely too, you must be aware of the vast number of complaints from personnel regarding "shit missing" off their official med files? If you think this "misplacement" is a very rare situation, I am very shocked and suggest you peruse a few threads and quite a few posts about such instances found right here on this very site. Eight ending up in one file released through ATI may be rare, but the missing from the rightful file doesn't seem to be. I won't limit such to med files either ... "shit" goes missing from pers files and UERs too - also evidenced on this very site. 
 

GAP

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Sounds like a simple filing error. Granted the contents should have been checked prior to sending, but the INability of people to file documents correctly is just astounding. You almost have to reteach them the alphabet and our numbering systems prior to letting them touch anything.

This is not a CF thing. This is everywhere.
 

armyvern

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GAP said:
Sounds like a simple filing error. Granted the contents should have been checked prior to sending, but the INability of people to file documents correctly is just astounding. You almost have to reteach them the alphabet and our numbering systems prior to letting them touch anything.

This is not a CF thing. This is everywhere.

Exactly why I stated in my post that I would not limit this to med files. The olny difference this time is in the confidentiality and negative ramifications this gross misfiling could have upon our soldiers and other departments outside of the CF (VAC for example and a member's future healtcare needs/entitlements).

However, the commonality of it all in the first place indicates that beyond this being a "simple" filing error, that there is a systemic problem wrt proper filing of docs into their appropriate files that needs to be addressed in an official manner somehow.



 

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ArmyVern said:
And, this is just ONE guy talking to the media ... you, with your own TI & background experience, should surely realize that it is the "few and far in between" person who actually "goes public".

Yup, and you, with your own TI & background experiences, should know that unless you see what was in his recieved folder than this could be a pile of turd.
'A PERSON" could have been just a mention of a name [witness] to a specific incedent.  'Cause I always trust the media.......
 

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I agree. If they take that approach, insist on it, document and check on it, discipline anyone who craps it up, the problem will go away.
 

armyvern

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Bruce Monkhouse said:
Yup, and you, with your own TI & background experiences, should know that unless you see what was in his recieved folder than this could be a pile of turd.
'A PERSON" could have been just a mention of a name [witness] to a specific incedent.  'Cause I always trust the media.......

Absolutely.

Greymatters said:
I agree that the CF should investigate to find why it happened, and guess what you'll find? Human error.  If youre trying to tell me that a person with your experience and background hasnt seen it before, Im pretty shocked. 

This sounds like a very rare incident where multiple files for an unknown reason got put into a single file.  Its tragic, but it happens.  The error obviously lies with whoever sending it out failed to review the contents prior to stuffing it into the envelope.  Correct the error and move on.

But, it seems that Greymatters figured that with my "experience and background", that I should this this as something akin to simple human error - to which I replied in the post you quoted.

I agree with him that it is human error, but not that it is "simple."

And, while I have great disdain for the media too, I read the article in context ... their use of "quotion marks" indicating direct quotes from the service member in question as to what he received, vice the usual:

Cpl Bloggins said that the file contained yadda yadda yadda also indicates that the MSM quoted his direct comments as to it's contents. If he lied about that, that's not on the MSM in this instance. Despite my disdain for them, I do recognize that sometimes they just may get it right.
 

midget-boyd91

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$hit happens. Especially when dealing with medical records. Both computerized and paper.

I personally have four (that I know of) different medical files due to the fact that I do not go by my first name, and having two middle names. Through five surgeries I've always watched the doctors struggling to find where the most recent info about my progress was last placed. MRI photos in one, Biopsy results sent to a different file.... it happens.
 

armyvern

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uncle-midget-Oddball said:
$hit happens. Especially when dealing with medical records. Both computerized and paper.

I personally have four (that I know of) different medical files due to the fact that I do not go by my first name, and having two middle names. Through five surgeries I've always watched the doctors struggling to find where the most recent info about my progress was last placed. MRI photos in one, Biopsy results sent to a different file.... it happens.

I'd agree with the above post too.

But, that doesn't mean that because it's the "norm" and happens "all the time" that we shuffle it off as non-important and say "oh well, shit happens". We should use it as a building block to improving and correcting the situation so that things like this misplacement of files are no longer "the norm".
 

George Wallace

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ArmyVern said:
I'd agree with the above post too.

But, that doesn't mean that because it's the "norm" and happens "all the time" that we shuffle it off as non-important and say "oh well, crap happens". We should use it as a building block to improving and correcting the situation so that things like this misplacement of files are no longer "the norm".

I am of the "nothing new" crowd.  I arrived in Germany with half of another guys medical file in mine.  Didn't find out until a Doctor asked me a year or so later during a medical how my arm was healing up from being broken.  I have never broken my arm.  So.  This has been happening for a good thirty years, at the very least.  And if it has been happening for thirty, then it has been happening for a lot longer.
 

Old Sweat

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In the seventies some medical material of another officer of the same rank and last name was found on my medical file. It was discovered when the MO started to rattle my butt for missing my over-forty medical. I was 36 at the time and told him so. Voila!
 

the 48th regulator

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Greymatters said:
These kinds of errors happen - I dont see why the 'shocked' member had to go to the papers and broadcast a clerical error as if it was the end of the world.

It might also interest him to know that based on current case law, if a private company does violate privacy (i.e. like the example in the paper) and takes reasonable steps to remedy the problem, you arent entitled to monetary damages.  Even the courts recognize the concept of human error.


GAP said:
Sounds like a simple filing error. Granted the contents should have been checked prior to sending, but the INability of people to file documents correctly is just astounding. You almost have to reteach them the alphabet and our numbering systems prior to letting them touch anything.

This is not a CF thing. This is everywhere.


This is a major breach of security, and confidentiality.

We preach it on this site all the time, OPSEC/PERSEC.  What if someone posted pictures on here, showing a vehicle that got hit by an IED?  Just an innocent post of some pics a person got from a friend that was overseas.  We would yank it, and punish that person.

Someone’s personal medical information was placed in someone Else's file.  Now that person’s medical information and confidentiality is open to anyone.  I have to deal with confidentiality everyday, with regards to people’s medical information, and  I can assure you breaching someone confidential medical information is not taken lightly.  Just like a negligent discharge, this clerk just performed the same action and should be investigated, and charged to the full extent of the Law.

Further to that, this shows that not all errors are performed by VAC.  Imagine anyone of those 9 (eight plus the guy in the article) tried to apply for a pension 20 years from now?  You may get someone at VAC denying services because the med docs are all fouled up, denying or delaying services that someone needs and deserves.

smiley_emoticons_my2cents.gif



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armyvern

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George Wallace said:
I am of the "nothing new" crowd.  I arrived in Germany with half of another guys medical file in mine.  Didn't find out until a Doctor asked me a year or so later during a medical how my arm was healing up from being broken.  I have never broken my arm.  So.  This has been happening for a good thirty years, at the very least.  And if it has been happening for thirty, then it has been happening for a lot longer.

I too agree that it is nothing new and honestly can`t understand where any of you are getting the impression that I am not aware of that from.

Where we differ is that I believe it is high time we ceased shuffling it off as "oh well, normal" and actually did something to try to correct the situation. IIRC, the Privacy Act states as much for a case like this too ... these were confidential medical docs released outside of the CF to an unautorized individual this time, not a simple misplaced weekly Pl Comds assessment.

So, now that I have reiterated once again my thoughts, I am done here. I`m simply not in the group arguing for complacency.
 

Greymatters

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Sorry for the long response time; holidays, work, all the usual stuff.  Unfortunately, Milnet is around #15 when it comes to priorities.

I read through all the following posts, then spent about ten minutes writing a response to George's and ArmyVern's comments.  They made some good points, but I disagree with other points they made.  I also liked GAP's comments.  But reading through it, I wouldnt be saying anything new.  So instead I'll just say that I did not advocate complacency, do agree with some portions of what they've said, but disagree with other parts.  I'll leave the rest to PM's...


 

REDM5F

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i agree with most of you, why the hell should you be shocked Al?

wtf eh next thing you know know youll end up with a 5f administrative burden acticle going around with that look on your face..

read the sop's and go hang your head in a dark corner until no one cares... please your upsetting me.
 

armyvern

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REDM5F said:
i agree with most of you, why the hell should you be shocked Al?

wtf eh next thing you know know youll end up with a 5f administrative burden acticle going around with that look on your face..

read the sop's and go hang your head in a dark corner until no one cares... please your upsetting me.

Step away from the egg nog.  :-\
 
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